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Lester enters new plea, could face up to 20 years in prison

Convicted sniper Shawn Lester entered a guilty plea to two federal weapons charges in U.S. District Court Wednesday and will be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison Dec. 10.

Lester's first plea agreement with federal prosecutors was rejected by U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver in September. Copenhaver said the sentence that would be recommended for Lester in exchange for that plea -- a 20-year sentence run concurrent with his state murder sentence -- was not appropriate.

Instead, Copenhaver allowed Lester to withdraw that first plea and sent attorneys and Lester back to the drawing board. At the time, the judge indicated that the state sniper case might even go back to square one and require a new trial.

That didn't happen, and Kanawha Prosecutor Mark Plants said at the time he didn't expect it would. But there have been hints that Lester's guilty plea to second-degree murder in the death of Jeanie Patton was linked to his federal weapons charges.

Wednesday's plea agreement signed by Lester includes no recommendation of a sentence. He is convicted of being in possession of a firearm while being a prohibited felon. Those incidents occurred in September 2007.

Check back for an updated story.


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